Pollock Holes, Kilkee

50 - Clare - Pollock Holes and Kilkee Diving Boards - 01a WM

Swimming at Pollock Holes, Kilkee, Co Clare.

Words by Maureen McCoy, photography by Paul McCambridge

At the mouth of Kilkee’s horse-shoe bay step onto the barren and exposed landscape of the Duggerna Reef. Revealed at low tide, the reef is a plateau made up of slabs of rock smoothed by the twice daily ebb and flow of the sea. As the tide recedes several pools are revealed, these are the Pollock Holes.

Slipping into these sheltered pools where anemones wave their soft tentacles in search of unseen creatures the colourful underwater world is far removed from the hard and flat grey stone above. Even as the Atlantic rages at the edge of the reef creating swathes of sea foam which blows across the pools, gathering like curds and whey on the surface, one can peacefully swim and snorkel. The yellows and purples of underwater plants lighting up the pale waters.

Paul McCambridge - Diving - WIld Swimming in Ireland 02 WM

Off season at the diving boards near the Pollock Holes, Kilkee, Co Clare.  Near the Pollock Holes there is a tiny gap in the wall of the coastal road leading to a curved stairway. Passing signs of; diving prohibited / unsafe, the steps lead down to two newly refurbished boards which strain out along the side of the cliff.

These pools have become an institution and although well-known and even busy during summer they are well worth the visit. Check out the stepped diving area close to Kilkee beach. Warm up in the café with scones and hot coffee after your swim.

Excerpt from Wild Swimming in Ireland 2016

Jack Sail-By-The-Wind or Velella Velella

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Jack Sail-by-the-Wind or Velella Velella

Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

A strange creature has been washing up on the beaches of Donegal, at first sight I, and many others on the beach, thought they were mussels. Why would mussels, usually holding so firmly on to rock or rope, have detached themselves from their beds? On closer inspection these dark blue shells were perhaps only half the mussel, broken apart by stormy seas? As each wave flushed more to be stranded in the sun, it looked as though the top layer of shell was peeling off. Like fine clear silicone with a spider web pattern, but this wasn’t mother of pearl with its rainbow colours and pearlescent sheen. This was transparent and it was not a layer peeling off but a tiny sail atop a tiny raft. Twisting slightly as it stretched over the length of the shell in a long thin S shape with fine spokes fanning out connecting a series of concentric growth rings, a delicate pattern so like the spiders web.

I picked one up and as I set it on my hand I was surprised to feel its soft underbelly on my skin. I immediately thought of oh-so-innocent looking jellyfish with their vicious tentacles and decided that perhaps it was not a good idea to handle them – I wasn’t stung though.

 

No-one seemed to know what they were, so snaps were taken and google was activated, I introduce you to –Jack Sail-by–the-Wind (or Velella velella)

 

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The science bit;

About 6cm long they are widespread in the oceans where they float on the surface with their tiny sails driven by the wind. There are two kinds with the sails running in the opposite diagonal across the raft, so some will always sail to the left of the wind, some always to the right.

The little raft is a float, filled with many air sacks, on its underside are attached a colony of cnidarians – (specialized ocean surface animals which include the Portuguese man o’ war) but although they do possess nematocysts – (the stinging bits of jellyfish) they are relatively harmless to humans – (some people can be irritated by contact so best not to rub your eyes or face after handling them). They are related not only to jellyfish but to anemones and coral.

Also known as Sea raft, purple sail, little sail.

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Carrickreagh Jetty Fermanagh

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

Carrickreagh Jetty sits close to Ely Lodge Forest and, surrounded by trees makes a picturesque start to a swim. An early morning dip before the touring boats began to come in was the order of the day. I dived in to the dark water, surprisingly warm, and rose into sun glinting off the surface.  Tiny fish, silver flashes as they streaked away from me, suddenly to stop and hang in the water, nose down tail up, as if dying, only to sprint away again when I approached. Entranced, I watched as groups of three to five “spricks” would do this repeatedly. Then below I spied some slightly larger fish – perhaps this was a game of hunting and survival I was witness to. How many levels of bigger fish would I encounter? Glad of my choice to wear a bright swimsuit, still I kept my toes high in the water, just in case.

The fish parted as I swam from the jetty, following the depth markers I kept to the edge of the main channel, exploring safely away from any boat traffic, but in the early morning there was no interruption to my swim. I returned through the still quiet morning to climb the ladder and dry in the strengthening sun. 

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KINBANE CASTLE NORTH ANTRIM COAST

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Words by Maureen McCoy

Photography by Paul McCambridge

Pulling into the small car park on the cliff at Kinbane I looked across to the clearest view of Rathlin Island I have ever seen.  The island is approximately seven miles from Ballycastle but looks so close today.  Behind the island the hazy shore of the Mull of Kintyre with calm deep blue water in between.  One thinks it would be easy to swim, but this is some of the coldest water around our shores and it would take many hours.

Following the steps which snake down the cliff led to a small cove with the remains of the old castles watch tower on a rugged outcrop.  Along the shore a roofless cottage with the rusting remains of a winch and then we could see the cave under the castle ruins that was to be todays swim.

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Clambering over rocks and forests of kelp we used a variation of dog-paddle and crawling, pulling ourselves through the weed until it was deep enough to swim. We made our way deep into the cave and seeing a glimpse of sky, ventured on through the arch carved by sea, under the ruins to emerge on the sea-ward side of the island.  Here the draw of the waves was powerful and sea birds above whistled and called. As we returned we were pushed forward on each wave then suspended, waiting for the next rush, as if on a swing we were drawn back and forth by the sea.

Cave at Kinbane

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An advanced swim due to the strength of tides here, a good knowledge of the tides and currents essential.

Beautiful spot to picnic and explore

Car park with toilets.

Long climb down steps to get to the cove.

LECALE WAY INLET Ballyhornan

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From the beach car park at Ballyhornan, I followed the way-marked path, the Lecale Way, south. This section of the path follows Rocks Road along the shore to a gate and stile.  Here the path becomes a grassy track, not a route for flip-flops, I might add.

Each rocky outcrop revealed another small cove, waiting for families to come and paddle, dip, swim and explore.  Follow the path on and the shore becomes steeper and craggier.

After a good half hour walking, the path moves up high along the cliff, and as it takes a great sweep around, there is a spectacular inlet – deep and clear green waters with high rocks either side.  At first I thought it was only accessible by boat, but on closer inspection, I found that one could walk down the grassy bank then climb down the rocks to get close to the waters edge.

The sunlight shining on the deep green water, the pale barnacle covered rocks stretching down into those depths, beckoned me in.  Looking out across the Irish Sea, I could see the hazy outline of the Scottish coast as I quietly explored this emerald inlet, perfect for jumping and diving.

A spot that has all the excitement of a great wild swim, a good walk to reach it, followed by a rock climb – then the treasure found – the swim!

Words By Maureen McCoy

Photography By Paul McCambridge

A word of caution, first establish where to climb out again before you take the leap! 

Remember, the water level will change as the tide moves in and out, so keep an eye on your exit route.

From Ballyhornan carpark , follow the signs for the Coastal path, Lecale Way, enjoy the views as the path climbs higher over the rocky coastline.  On a calm day you will see the inlet, clear green from the path high above.

On a rough day, this inlet churns like a washing machine.

Always ensure you have a clear exit from the water

Philips Street Atlas          Co Armagh + Co Down   pg 110   C1        (Benboy Hill)

JANETS ROCK, BALLYMARTIN Co Down

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Through Newcastle and Annalong, we drove out the Kilkeel Road where, just before we got to Ballymartin village, there was a small track down to the shore. Leaving the car near the bus stop on the road, we walked down the track.  Actually, we could have driven down the stony laneway, with care, as there is ample room at the bottom to turn and park.

The sandy beach and rocky outcrop which gives its name to the spot, forms a perfect cove for swimming.  The water is clear and quickly getting to a good depth, is a joy.

Only Oonagh and I were brave enough to enter the fresh seawaters.  We are not sure whether it was the thoughts of cold water or the curious seal that watched us from afar that put the boys off, but they missed a super dip.  The water was crystal clear with the rocky sea bed providing a home to sea weeds of all colours.  Fish hiding in the crevasses and tiny crabs scuttling across on their search for food.  There was so much to see under the water.  We climbed, barefoot over the rocks to slip in a rock pool then  swim underwater through a narrow gap into a larger pool, it felt like a great adventure.  Then to dive back into the main cove, watched from a distance by the seal, made one feel so alive.

This little bay seems to be a local secret and I’m glad to have discovered it.

Janet’s Rock       Ballymartin

 From Annalong, drive out the Kilkeel Road, before you enter Ballymartin itself, there is a row of houses on the right, and a bus stop on the left.  At this bus stop a stony laneway runs down to the shore.

Driveable in an ordinary car, with care, and space to turn and park near the shore.

 A beautiful bay, with a few locals during the summer, and the occasional fisherman taking a boat out to check his lobster pots.

No facilities but very close to Ballymartin village.